N.C. A&T Awarded $200K NSF Grant to Establish Digital Badge Program, Advance STEM Education

By Debbie Hampton / 10/07/2021 Research and Economic Development, College of Business and Economics, College of Engineering

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Oct. 7, 2021) – A team at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University received a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to implement a digital badge program which seeks to increase the competitive science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skillsets of students entering the transportation workforce and transportation graduate school programs.

Maranda McBride, Ph.D., professor of management in the Willie A. Deese College of Business and Economics, along with the College of Engineering’s Hyoshin Park, Ph.D., assistant professor of computational data science and engineering, and Venktesh Pandey, Ph.D., assistant professor of civil engineering, proposed the new transportation digital badge program.

Their proposal is in response to a NSF Historically Black College and University Undergraduate Program Targeted Infusion Project (HBCU-UP TIP) titled “Advancing STEM Education Through Transportation Studies (ASETTS).” The project was initiated in September 2021 and is funded for two years.

ASETTS will create a digital badge program encouraging and enabling undergraduate students to increase their knowledge in STEM and core subject skills by establishing mentorship programs, embedding engaging experiential learning activities in courses, providing research opportunities and scholarships, and increasing students’ exposure to transportation career opportunities through an array of experiential activities.

Digital badges are validated indicators of a student’s accomplishment and skill in a specific area that they can include on their resume to assure potential employers of basic knowledge and competency. Like a school transcript, digital badges can provide credentialing for a person that includes specific information about the requirements necessary to earn the badge.

In ASETTS, students will earn points toward specific digital badges upon the completion of various activities. Some examples are:

  • Participation in transportation-related field trips
  • Participation in transportation competitions
  • Attendance at a transportation conference, workshop or symposium
  • Engaging in a transportation-related mentorship or community volunteer opportunity
  • Attendance at transportation-related student organization meetings and campus events.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Institute of Transportation Engineers will endorse the badges, and the supporting agencies will be involved in creating, reviewing, and providing opportunities for ASETTS participants. Badges also will be “stackable” and consist of different levels of achievement depending on student effort and the number of hours invested.

Historically and currently, the demand for people with managerial, technical and STEM skills far exceeds the supply in the transportation field. The transportation industry faces workforce challenges because of demographic changes, new technologies and a wider range of skills needed. According to the Transportation Research Board’s Steps for Transportation Workforce Diversity Outlined in TRB’s Research, “As our systems become more technologically complex, the future workforce will need higher skill levels, a more diverse base of disciplinary perspectives, and adaptability.”

Media Contact Information: uncomm@ncat.edu

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